As glorious Sydney weather turns almost inexplicably into starts to develop the kind of chill in the air that Melbournites would be proud of, we are once again reminded why many people feel it’s too much hassle to install outdoor art.
The potential problems are extensive. As the weather reminds us, clearly the work needs to be weather proof. Damage from rain, sun (and, occasionally in Australia, salt) are all issues artists, curators and creatives regularly deal with when placing works outside.
Despite all this, outdoor art has not been put in the too hard basket just yet; allowing for projects like Culture Scouts street art walking tours, and the recent Scenic World outdoor exhibition in the Blue Mountains showcasing the way in which an outdoor setting can enhance artworks, creating a uniquely immersive experience for the viewer. And as any art lover knows, there is something intrinsically timely, and ephemeral about outdoor art.
As opposed to a gallery, whose style of existence relies about viewers knowing about it, and making the effort to go see art, outdoors work can be seen wholly by accident; giving it a magical in-the moment feel. If you’d turned left instead of right you’d have missed that Simpsons political parody in Chippendale, and your outlook on the day would be completely different, wouldn't it?
It that way, outdoors works can be hugely egalitarian for not only the patrons coming across art, but with some street artists choosing not even to put their names on work. Street art is often transient, with new works emerging on top of each other as new political and social issues come to the fore. Keeping one eye on art in the street is akin to keeping one finger on the pulse of the city.
Another way that street art is telling on tensions in society is how they react to artworks - the vandalised Kim Kardashian nude selfie work in Melbourne, the video of New York “Fearless” girl statue being leered at and groped by a drunken Wall Street ‘bro’, or the far-right criticism of Manaf Halbouni’s Dresden outside installation, “Monument”.
This negative feedback could in itself could be a good reason not to create public art. However, imagine the loss of rich textuality and debate to public places if it stopped? It is these discussions that emerge, which make the not small effort behind street art worthwhile.
If you’d like to see more of Sydney’s street art, join Culture Scouts for a tour.